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Report to Congress on The Purple Heart

The following is the Dec. 15, 2017 Congressional Research Service Report, The Purple Heart: Background and Issues for Congress. 

From the Report:

The Purple Heart is one of the oldest and most recognized American military medals, awarded to servicemembers who were killed or wounded by enemy action. The conflicts of the last decade have greatly increased the number of Purple Hearts awarded to servicemembers. Events over the past few years have spurred debate on the eligibility criteria for the Purple Heart.

Shootings on U.S. soil and medical conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have prompted changes to the eligibility requirements for the Purple Heart. Some critics believe that these changes may lessen the value of the medal and the sacrifices of past recipients on the battlefield. In the past, efforts to modify the Purple Heart’s eligibility requirements were contentious, and veterans groups were very vocal concerning eligibility changes.

While medal requirements are often left to the military and executive branch to decide, Congress is showing increased interest and involvement in Purple Heart eligibility, utilizing its constitutional power “To Make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces” (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, clause 14). The Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (P.L. 113-291) included language that expands eligibility for the Purple Heart.

Previous debates have raised several questions about the Purple Heart. In some respects, how an event is defined can determine eligibility: Is a servicemember the victim of a crime or a terrorist attack?

Conversely, arguing that killed or wounded servicemembers “should” be eligible for the Purple Heart can redefine an event: Is the servicemember an advisor to a foreign military or a combatant? Are PTSD and other mental health conditions adequate injuries to warrant the Purple Heart? These are questions that Congress might consider if it chooses to act on this issue.


via fas.org

  • D. Jones

    No mention of John Kerry. Odd

    • Sir Bateman

      John Kerry served in Vietnam you know. /s

      • tiger

        And class A jerk since.

    • publius_maximus_III

      “…awarded to service members who were killed or wounded by enemy action.” [emphasis added]

      First thing that entered my mind, too. No mention of blowback from your own grenade. Not too swift.

  • RobM1981

    They mention that it is One of the oldest… which medal is older?

  • Ctrot

    An issue of some consternation to me is that someone who is killed in action receives the same Purple Heart as someone who receives a non life threatening wound. As the relative of someone who was KIA that just seems a bit “unjust”.

    • baruch_gershom

      What gets me is that when a unit is over-run, and there are no surviving witnesses to their bravery, except the enemy, they get a Purple Heart and nothing else.

      • tiger

        The enemy have offered testimony and validated actions for many awards.

  • Jack Guns O’Brien

    A Purple Heart Medal does not necessarily qualify a Marine for the Combat Action Ribbon. I don’t know Army regulations on this.

  • Jack Guns O’Brien

    The following types of
    wounds/injuries have
    historically not warranted
    the Purple Heart:
     Cold and heat related injuries
    (e.g., frostbite and heatstroke)
     Hearing loss and tinnitus (i.e.,
    ringing in the ears)
     MTBI/concussions that do not
    either cause loss of
    consciousness or disposition by
    a medical officer of “not fit for
    full duty” for a period greater
    than 48 hours from the time of
    the concussive incident due to
    persistent signs, symptoms, or
    findings of functional
    impairment.
     Post traumatic stress disorder
    (PTSD) or combat stress
    injuries
     Disease (unless caused by
    enemy biological agents)
     Abrasions (unless of a severity
    to be incapacitating)
     Bruises (unless caused by
    direct impact of enemy weapon
    and of a severity to require
    treatment by a medical officer)
     First degree burns
     Soft tissue injuries (e.g.,
    ligament/tendon/muscle strains
    or sprains)
     Any wounds/injuries received
    as a result of friendly fire when
    the Marine was not engaging
    the enemy at the time of the
    injury

  • ROBERT BEHEN

    CONGRESS AND THE GOVERNMENT HAVE HELPED OUR MILITARY LOSE ALL IT’S WAR’S FOR THE LAST 50 PLUS YEAR’S. NOW THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE JUDGEMENT’S ON THE VALOR AND SACRIFICE OF THE HERO’S WHO HAVE GONE TO EVERY HELLHOLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND BEYOND TO DO THEIR BIDDING. I THINK THEY OUGHT TO BACK OFF A TASTE AND LET THE MILITARY HANDLE IT.

  • tiger

    No expansions.

  • Richard Jonesy

    I hear they’re going to start issuing a ‘version’ of the Purple heart for keyboard warriors called the Mauve Heart. It’ll be issued to “typing beyond the call of duty in the pursuit of trivial nonsence and especially in the defence of useless money pits such as any Lockmart project (F-35, LCS, etc) or of congressional district pork barrel largess.”